SINGAPORE -- L.M. Ericsson's microelectronics group and Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing Pte. Ltd. today announced an agreement to jointly develop radio-frequency CMOS and BiCMOS technologies to support a range of wireless communications applications, including Bluetooth.
The development agreement expands an existing manufacturing relationship between Sweden's Ericsson Microelectronics and silicon foundry Chartered Semiconductor in Singapore. The non-exclusive development pact covers a period in excess of 10 years and multiple process technology generations, starting with 0.25-micron design rules, said Kevin Meyer, Chartered's vice president of worldwide marketing.
Both the RF CMOS and the BiCMOS technologies will be based on and integrated into Chartered's advanced CMOS manufacturing process. Ericsson's engineers will work with Chartered personnel in Singapore to develop the RF CMOS technology. Chartered will station engineers in Ericsson's Sweden facilities to co-develop the BiCMOS capabilities.
The RF CMOS technology will serve cost-sensitive applications, while BiCMOS will be targeted at total integration of high-performance functions for wireless systems, said Ericsson and Chartered.
Volume products from the RF CMOS processes are expected to be available in the first quarter of 2001. The first BiCMOS technology will become available in the third quarter of 2001, according to the companies. Both processes will be aimed at producing high levels of integration for system-on-chip solutions.
"The goal is to initially target quarter-micron technology and to consider other components of our 0.18-micron processes as we work towards the specification that are necessary in meeting the Bluetooth standard," Meyer said. The RF CMOS technology will be developed as a "plug-in module to Chartered's baseline CMOS technology, just like our embedded flash and embedded SRAM modules," he added.
For Ericsson Microelectronics, the co-development agreement will enable the group to speed ability of next-generation ICs for Bluetooth wireless transmission systems and other RF-based communication applications, said Tom Moller, vice president and general manager for U.S.-based Ericcson Components. "By combining our two areas of competency we believe we can get to market quickly with the right product at the right cost, which is a very important element," Moller said.
Bluetooth is an RF specification for a short-range, point-to-multipoint voice and data transfer developed jointly by Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Nokia, and Toshiba. It is being positioned as a potential standard to link mobile computers, mobile phones and other portable devices to the Internet. Ericsson Microelectronics is producing devices for Bluetooth today, but the agreement with Chartered will enable the Swedish company to produce system-on-chip designs for the RF link.
"We have to get cost down and volume up very quickly and dramatically," Moller said. Ericsson plans to be able to produce the jointly-developed RF CMOS and BiCMOS designs in its own fab but "Chartered will be the primarily volume manufacturer." he said. "Basically, we will have mirrored processes."
--J. Robert Lineback reporting in the U.S.